Office of the Veterans Affairs Ombudsman

Office of the Veterans Affairs Ombudsman

December 05, 2011 12:47 ET

Veterans Ombudsman Calls on Veterans Affairs Canada to Improve Veterans Funeral and Burial Program

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 5, 2011) - Today, Guy Parent, Canada's Veterans Ombudsman, renewed his call on Veterans Affairs Canada to implement changes to the Veterans' Funeral and Burial Program.

"The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman issued its report, Serve with Honour, Depart with Dignity, almost three years ago - and Veterans Affairs Canada has acted on only one of the seven recommendations. It is unconscionable that Veterans Affairs Canada continues to stall. Veterans Affairs Canada has stated that over 1500 older Veterans pass away every month. Will they wait until the whole generation has passed away before they act?"

The report called on Veterans Affairs Canada to raise the ceiling for Veterans' funeral and burial expenses to reflect industry standards. The average cost of a funeral in Canada today is between $7,000 and $10,000, yet Veterans Affairs Canada provides only $3,600 for funeral and burial-related services, an amount that has not changed since 2001. The Department of National Defence and the RCMP currently provide up to $12,700 in the event of the death of a serving member.

The report also calls on Veterans Affairs Canada to extend the program to all Veterans and to simplify the administration of the program.

"Currently, the families of eligible Veterans are required to plan the funeral of their loved ones from an itemized list, as if the funeral was a coupon-cutting exercise. The current administrative demands place a heavy burden on grieving families.

"It is ironic that on the one hand, Veterans Affairs Canada has said that they are able to reduce their budget as a result of a decline in their client base, and yet there are clearly underfunded programs, like the Funeral and Burial Program, that are not sufficiently resourced to meet the needs of Veterans and their families.

"Veterans who have served and sacrificed for their country deserve to depart with dignity and respect. We would hope that Veterans Affairs Canada takes this opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to support Canada's Veterans to the end."

Backgrounder

Veterans Ombudsman calls on Veterans Affairs Canada to improve Veterans Funeral and Burial Program

On February 19, 2009, The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman released its first report, entitled Serve with Honour, Depart with Dignity. The report served as an administrative review of Veterans Affairs Canada's Funeral and Burial Program, which is a program that is administered by the Last Post Fund. During the year 2007, the Fund processed approximately 16,000 applications for benefits under the Funeral and Burial Program.

The administrative review of the Funeral and Burial Program was prompted by testimonials the Office received from administrators of the Last Post Fund describing the difficulties that some grieving families encountered when burying their loved ones. It was evident that there were a number of issues of concern regarding the administration of the program and the benefits provided.

The review led to the following seven recommendations:

  1. That the ceiling for Veterans' funeral and burial expenses be raised to reflect industry standards and that an indexing formula be introduced to ensure that the rates keep up with the economic increases.
  2. That the administration of funeral and burial benefits be simplified by using a discretionary lump sum approach for reimbursable expenses rather than the present itemized approach.
  3. That Veterans Affairs Canada extend the Funeral and Burial Program to all Veterans.
  4. That eligibility related to the Funeral and Burial Program be extended to include Veterans who suffer from multiple pensioned conditions where the total aggregate suffering and weakening of their body may contribute to the cause of death.
  5. That the estate exemption (surviving spouse) for the means test be increased and aligned with present-day income and cost levels.
  6. That Veterans Affairs Canada engage in a proactive multi-faceted communications campaign to raise awareness of the Funeral and Burial Program.
  7. That Veterans Affairs Canada be more flexible and allow for extraordinary circumstances to be considered when the established timeframe is exceeded.

The report can be found on the Web site: http://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/reports-rapports/honour-honneur-eng.cfm.

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